I’ve put most of my writing energy over the past week into my debate on latimes.com with Marc Cooper, concerning the future of the L.A. Times. In case you haven’t followed it, I wanted to provide a roundup of links, together with some highlights from my entries, to whet your appetite:
[T]he paper ran a front-page story last month alleging that Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, had a website with pornographic images, including a “half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal.” The obvious suggestion was the video depicted bestiality in a prurient manner.
Nonsense. In fact, the video is humor. It portrays a man who is probably trying to relieve himself while trying to fight off an aroused donkey with one hand as he holds up his pants with the other. It has been shown on television and is available on YouTube. Most of the material on the judge’s website, as it turned out, was similarly intended as humorous and not lewd. Many readers I know who viewed the actual material felt deceived by The Times’ article. They felt that the newspaper tried to make the story seem splashier than it really was.
You can’t blame that on Tribune.
The [L.A.] Weekly exposed the laughable naivete of a 2005 Times article lionizing an alleged “former gang member” supposedly turned “man of peace.” The Weekly’s secret trick? Talking to law enforcement!
The Weekly printed an excellent piece about gang warfare in housing projects. Meanwhile, The Times couldn’t be bothered to run one line on the shooting death of a teenager in Compton. Yet somehow, the paper found room for a dozen stories about Paris Hilton’s jail sentence.
Worse than the complacency is the paper’s arrogance — its overweening, unbearable arrogance.
L.A. Times editors view themselves as self-appointed shapers of public opinion. They dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back for their alleged “intellectual rigor and emotional self-discipline,” to use Tim Rutten’s memorably modest phrasing in 2003.
The hallmark of arrogance is casual, aloof dismissal of one’s critics. Some snigger behind their hand as they dismiss bloggers as a “crew of dilettante verbal snipers” whose views can be safely ignored while the ever-so-serious newspaper people discuss the issues of the day.
[T]he paper’s dismissive attitude toward bloggers is so supercilious, it’s comical.
Times business columnist David Lazarus once contrasted the virtues of “the much-respected, widely esteemed news outlet you’re currently enjoying” — no arrogance there! — with blogs, which, according to Lazarus, “continue sprouting like crab grass throughout the electronic ether.” The late David Shaw called blogs a “solipsistic, self-aggrandizing journalist-wannabe genre.” Every time I catch the paper in yet another embarrassing error, my readers fondly recall Shaw’s pompous pronouncement that his columns were superior because they were reviewed by “four experienced Times editors.”
Does The Times still have four editors reviewing every piece it publishes? I doubt it. How could it, with round after round of layoffs?
Yes, The Times is dying a slow death right in front of our eyes for the reasons we have discussed ad nauseam: the impact of the Internet coupled with the paper’s arrogance and aloofness. It won’t be missed.
This is a paper where even the Pulitzer Prize winners are often an embarrassment. When they’re not publishing stories based on forged documents or embroiled in ethically questionable conflicts of interest, they’re snooping into their colleagues’ e-mail or leaving silly sock-puppet comments on my blog.
You can read it all here.
My sparring partner in this debate, Marc Cooper, says of me:
I enjoyed mixing it up with Patrick “Patterico” Frey. He’s a nice and thoughtful guy, if politically errant.
Funny; that’s just what I was going to say about him!
Seriously, though, I did enjoy the jousting with Marc. And he does seem like a good guy, even if he’s maybe a bit hostile to you, my commenters. (You did know that you’re “bitter, angry and delusional folks” . . . didn’t you?)